Category Archives: Culture

“Ideas are more powerful than guns.”
Tony Benn, August 2007

The working class of the past were very aware of philosophical thoughts and argument. They came from a system of education and a society in which thought was valued just as much as employable skills. Men down the working mens clubs might not use high academic language, but they knew how to discuss and debate the issues. They would also have listened to union and labour speakers teaching about these things, building on the thoughts and knowledge that was developing out of the social revolutions of the late 19th century.

In the pursuit of skills for employability, tangible qualifications and testable learning, the idea of thought and philosophy for self enrichment has been totally lost. But ideas are powerful. More powerful than weapons, as Tony Benn put it. And ideas, once they take hold and grow roots, become the powerhouse for change.

Basic standard of living vs. Long-term Incapacity Benefit

Do you earn enough for a basic standard of living?

The Minimum Income Standard for the UK shows how much money people need, so that they can buy things that members of the public think that everyone in the UK should be able to afford. Take the test at the link:

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 08.28.42Now compare ‘minimum income standard’ with what someone on long term sickness/disability benefit actually gets. The hypothetical person has no realistic prospect of returning to work in the near future, yet their compensated income isn’t even subsistence income.

But whilst the public may think that someone on a wage should be able to afford these things, you may not. It could be said that they can do without alcohol and they don’t need to spend money on social activities because there are things that can be done for free. Someone can quite rightly claim that clothing isn’t something that has to be purchased every month either, especially if you’re careful with your clothes.

It is often mis represented that the case for higher benefits (in this context) is wanting parity with an earning standard of living. This was an exercise in demonstrating the current wide disparity by showing that £115 per week is the gap at two extremes (within the context). However the figures proposed at minimum working/earning standard of living are not wild or fanciful. The reality for all disabled and long term sickness benefit recipients is that the benefits are barely meeting their needs, let alone even partially their desires.

I think that the debate should be where between the two extremes should the income be set. So what is appropriate substance levels, bearing in mind that the disabled person has no fair reason to be excluded from normal participation in society? Also bearing in mind the difference between an Able bodied job seeker, vs what we are talking about: incapacitated through sickness/health or disability.

For the job seeker, a temporary exclusion from normal participation is acceptable due to the temporary nature of unemployment relative to employment, and the motivation that exists there in; however the long term sick/disabled faces exclusion from participation in cultural activities, or from affording enough variety in food and social activities, and the motivation factor is redundant in this respect.

The disabled or long term incapacitated person will also have generally higher costs of living associated with their incapacity. There also comes a point where all clothes eventually do fall apart, no matter how careful one is, or become tatty/ragged, yet the less than substance existence provides not much leeway for replacement of items clothing or household that break or wear down.

For international comparison, the income for disabled/sickness benefit in UK is 1/4 of that in Canada, and 1/2 of the European average.

And final, all social security will be uprated at 1% for next three years. As the benefits barely cover cost of all essentials, this means a very real drop in income as inflation increases.  Compared to someone on median wage of £21k, someone on the income provided here has currently £96pw. In fixed cash terms, after three years that will be equivalent to £66pw.

The point being: there is very little “fat” left to cut. Literally in some cases!

And the sheep bleated loudly and repeatedly, “private good, public bad!” And Squealer triumphed how much better it was than in Brown’s day.

Squealer listed their achievements: unemployment was down! Welfare reform worked! Growth was up! Inflation might have been up, but it had all been much worse under Brown.

Stalin’s Communism, Cameron’s Conservatism. I looked from one to the other, and back: but it was impossible to say which was which.

After George Orwell.

When does political rhetoric become dangerous propaganda? Part One

We will shortly be observing the two days of remembrance, the two minutes of silence on Armistice Day (11th November) and Remembrance Sunday (2nd Sunday of November). 70 years ago the world was engulfed by warfare on a scale never seen and, across Europe, Hitler’s armies seemed to be unstoppable with most of the continent occupied and controlled by Nazi Germany. The tide was soon to turn, and the allies fought back and defeated fascism.

But nothing had prepared the allied troops for the horrors they found at the German prisoner camps. The films and photographs of pits piled with corpses shocked the world. Nazi leaders were brought to trial at Nuremberg for the crimes and the Holocaust inflicted by the Nazis. Dozens were hanged for their crimes.

Many vowed that “Never Again” this should happen.

The Jews had been particularly targeted by the Nazis, but often overlooked were the other groups that they persecuted and murdered. These included:

  • the disabled,
  • people with incurable mental and physical illnesses,
  • social misfits such as the homeless and unemployed,
  • gays,
  • gypsies,
  • Jehovah Witnesses,
  • the Polish
  • and political opponents.

All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million non-combatant, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included.

But how could such a thing have happened? How could the Germans reached a stage where by they enacted the industrialised process of killing people on such an enormous scale?

In this extract from the BBC series Planet Word, Stephen Fry’s takes us back to Germany in the early 1930, a time of world wide economic crisis and austerity not unlike today.  Stephen talks about the language used by the Nazis to change the opinion of ordinary humans in a manner that would dehumanise groups of people whom the Nazis would then proceed to kill.

In my next post I will explore the idea of rhetoric and propaganda further, and see if there are lessons we can apply to our current economic challenges.

Long Lost Composition Arrives

This morning I had a knock on the door from my postman. In his hand was an envelope containing the CD of a composition I haven’t heard since I wrote it over 12 years ago.

NEWSTEAD ABBEY is a March for Brass Band that was commissioned by the City of Nottingham Transport Band for their CD recording ‘Music from the City of Legends’. I had never heard this recording, and the band has since disbanded. So I searched for hours online until I came across any leads and emailed away. Eventually I was given the email of someone who might be able to help, and sure enough— here is the result!